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Entries in Cinematography (163)

Monday
Jan192015

Lensing Black Faces: Why the Bradford Young Snub Stings

Manuel here taking the MLK holiday to discuss the cinematography category in terms of its aversion to honor black faces.

Young on the Selma set

Amidst all the outrage surrounding Selma’s near-shutout at the Academy Awards (nabbing only two nominations in Best Picture and Best Original Song), the focus has been on Ava DuVernay’s absence in the unsurprisingly male best director lineup and David Oyelowo’s absence in the unsurprisingly white best actor lineup. I want to focus today on Bradford Young’s absence in the best cinematography lineup. Had Young been nominated, he’d have been only the second African-American black D.P. [Ed. Note: thanks for correcting me on this crucial distinction, Ian & 3rtful] to be nominated for an Oscar (the first and only so far is Remi Adefarasin, nominated for his beautiful work on Elizabeth). Of course, this also reveals the systemic lack of diversity that TFE bestie Jessica Chastain brought up just last week at the Critic’s Choice Awards. Can you really focus on this type of statistic without addressing larger institutional issues? Not really. Or rather, not constructively. And so, rather than focus on this one snub which is already quite disappointing given Young’s rising profile, I wanted to know what it might tell us about the academy’s reticence to celebrate D.P.’s that lens black faces.

I’m never satisfied with the way I see my people photographed in movies. I think it comes from a lack of consciousness – if you grew up in a community where you don’t know black people, I wouldn’t suspect you would photograph them in a concerned way. - Young on the Politics of Lensing Black Films

The Academy, as it turns out, has been rather skittish about nominating directors of photography who have worked with the type of canvas Young so skillfully paints with in Selma. Indeed, several films with predominantly black casts have been on the hunt for a cinematography award before, sometimes coming quite close to landing that coveted distinction... 

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jan072015

The Cinematography Guild's Nominees 

The American Society of Cinematographers chose the following five films as the best shot of the year. According to Twitter The Imitation Game is the odd man out. It was shot by Oscar Faura who is definitely talented (see The Orphanage and The Impossible) but discussions around this film rarely concern themselves with the quality of its cinematography (which can't really be said for the other nominees here). 

1 of roughly 1,890 amazing shots in Mr Turner

 

 

It does remind slightly of when The King's Speech got that perplexing actual Oscar nomination for Cinematography over at least a dozen (at least it bears repeating) well shot and more inspiring choices from 2010. Of the ASC nominees only Lubezki has previously won an Oscar (for Gravity) and Roger Deakins is of course ever the Bridesmaid, never the Bride (which we used to be able to say about Lubezki). Dick Pope has one previous nomination to his credit (The Illusionsit) 

Assuming the Oscar race is between Lubezki and Deakins, who do you think will win? Do you think this will be the Oscar list and if you don't which film with acclaimed cinematography (no matter what one thinks of each film) sneak in?  Selma? Interstellar? A Most Violent Year? Wild (interview)? Gone Girl? The Homesman? or something else entirely? My write-in vote is Yorick LeSaux's work on Only Lovers Left Alive.

P.S. My final Oscar predictions are coming next week. Obviously I need to rethink my chart - way off there! We're just waiting for Oscar nomination balloting to close up shop (which happens tomorrow evening). 

Sunday
Jan042015

Podcast: Selma & The NSFC Prizes

In this new episode of The Film Experience, Katey returns to chat with Nick, Joe, and Nathaniel. We mostly focus on Ava DuVernay's wonderful Selma and The National Society of Film Critics but the conversation wanders to various Oscar races. As it does, don't you know by now? 

Recommended Supplemental Material: 
Timothy Spall Interview
Pride DVD packaging

You can listen at the bottom of the post or download tomorrow from iTunes. Continue the conversation in the comments! 

SELMA Podcast

Friday
Jan022015

Linkcatcher

Forbes a curious realization. Nearly half of the 20+ sequels coming in 2015 are sequels to 2012 films from Magic Mike XXL to Pitch Perfect 2 and beyond
Erik Lundegaard great movie quotes of the year 
Film Stage unused concept art for an Alien film from Neill Blomkamp (of District 9 fame)


Deadline talks to rising DP star Bradford Young (Selma, A Most Violent Year) about lensing black films 
Variety Selma will be screened for free in its titular city
/Film Yes, Emily Blunt is aware that the internet would like her to play Captain Marvel in the upcoming Marvel film
LA Times on Robert Elswit, another fine cinematographer with two films this year (Nightcrawler, Inherent Vice)
Boy Culture Mark Wahlberg pic (the headline for pic is A+)
The Feminist Spectator is justifiably miffed that Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game can't be bothered to pay more attention to women or pass the Bechdel Test (though I actually think Theory of Everything technically does due to that unintentionally hilarious "you should go to church. bye" scene) 
YouTube Avengers: Age of Ultron commercial. I know this is par for the course now but it never fails to amaze and amuse and depress me that commercials (all trailers are commercials) now get their own commercials (premiering on January 12th!) when they themselves are sequels to commercials (third trailer!). What a world. FWIW this ant-size commercial for the upcoming Ant-Man commercial is pretty clever.

a few more 'best of' lists
Kyle Turner's top 14 from Mommy to Gone Girl
Scott Feinberg's unusual top ten, critical hits of various ilk and... Magic in the Moonlight?  
Pop Culture Crazy's "foolhardy" top ten construction from Life Itself on upward 

Happy New Year NPH

 

Dave and Mark Schulz in Olympic timesOscar Campaign Pot Holes
Pretty much every website is writing about Mark Schultz absolute freak out over Foxcatcher (that links takes you to the fullest recap I've seen with his "Die! Die! Die! deleted tweets and all) so I figure it doesn't need its own post. But it is the juiciest current movie explosion going on now that the Sony e-mail hack story has slowed down. The former Olympian didn't seem to have a problem with the film in which Channing Tatum plays him until several months after he first saw it. Interestingly his U turn happened during Oscar voting. Hmmmm. He says he is contractually obliged to support the film making this very public rage even more complicated. His about face appears to stem from a delayed realization of the film's homosexual subtext... which we only very recently discussed on our podcast and weren't all that impressed with as a choice. Schultz has since apologized for the outburst but is sticking with his claims of total inaccuracy.

Variety suggests that what's going on with Imitation Game and Selma is smear campaigns but is it really? Disputes about accuracy of biographical pictures are plentiful throughout history no matter the subject or Oscar heat. But for what it's worth people are saying that Selma's depiction of LBJ is problematic (sorry Tom Wilkinson - not what we needed disputed if we want to avoid that Robert Duvall nomination!). Now even a former Presidential aide to LBJ is chiming in on the controversy. For what it's worth, director Ava DuVernay, who used to be a publicist so knows this game, is very smart about dodging these attacks and keeping a cool head with her statements.

Disputes over Selma's screenplay credit aren't half as gripping, if only because this just happened last year with 12 Years a Slave and it seemed a lot bitchier then. Remember Steve McQueen's airclapping when the screenwriter won his Oscar?

Wednesday
Dec312014

Interlinker

BBC News That's "Sir" John Hurt to you and "Dame" Kristin Scott Thomas. Woooo
They Live By Night Bilge Ebiri offers up a thoughtful defense of Interstellar and its portrait of restless Coop and the double edged sword of survival instincts
Reductress Brilliant send-up of Aaron Sorkin's recent sexist comments. These quotes are satiric but he has said that actresses aren't as good as actors so therefore he is MUCH stupider than his screenplays imply.
Pajiba Benedict Cumberbatch finally speaks about his "dance-off" with Michael Fassbender

Stage Buddy TFE's ocassional contributor Jose offers up his best theater of 2014
i09 lowest ticket sales year in quite some time for Hollywood
MNPP wishes you all a Happy New Year with a gallery of DILFs and their little ones from Channing Tatum to Cam Gigandet
Movies.com fun list of top hits from abroad that didn't make it to the States.  A few of this year's foreign film submissions are sprinkled in
Kenneth in the 212 wants an Emmy for Lisa Kudrow for Season 2 of The Comeback
Nerdist talks to Sam Raimi and he's quite candid about his recent artistic failures Spider-Man 3 and Oz: The Great and Powerful. Now if we can only get a movie as good as 
LitWit a book podcast celebrates the 50th anniversary of "The Chronicles of Prydain", a great young reader fantasy that Disney mucked up in the 80s with The Black Cauldron


Oscariffic
Interview Magazine a talk with ever gorgeous still undervalued Matthew Goode (The Imitation Game)
New York Times has a fine piece called "When the Red Carpet Is Rolled Up" about what happens to the previously unknown Oscar nominees after their moment of glory
Awards Daily Sasha named Rosamund Pike "Performance of the Year" but strangely in her top 11 best actress choices she says of #11 Essie Davis in The Babadook "arguably the best performance of the year". Why #11 then?
Critics Top 10 has been compiling list. It's fascinating to see how many lists each film tops no matter what run they occupy in the top 50. For instance The Grand Budapest Hotel has fewer #1 placements than several others but ends up at #2 overall.The highest ranking film with no #1 placements is Starred Up at #49
In Contention Kris Tapley does his annual best shots of the film year celebrating cinematographers: some of the selections include Godzilla, Interstellar, Mr Turner and Nightcrawler

Exit Video
The visual effects of Captain America: The Winter Soldier...

 

They'll have a tough road to a nomination given that AMPAS has been stingy with Marvel Studios films in this category unless Iron Man is around. But if they get nominated I'll celebrate even though this reel isn't particularly informative. So much destruction. But I love this movie. 

Wednesday
Dec312014

Screener Adventures from American Snipers to British Painters (Pt. 2)

Previously... I shared brief thoughts about rewatches of Big Hero, Grand Budapest, Babadook well as The Homesman and Skeleton Twins.

What came next in the home-screening adventures, you ask? Here I am to answer. I haven't had as much time as I'd hope (aint that always the case) but I've been trying to cram movies in. Here are a handful of notes on movies from the screener stack.

AMERICAN SNIPER
Credit where credit is due: For once a Clint Eastwood movie is not filmed like its sinking into an inky black void where color is a total affront to sober intent. It turns out Tom Stern can make movies that take place in reasonably well lit places. Okay, okay, let's not get carried away. It's still largely colorless but this time there is daylight though the subject matter remains brutal. I'm not sure what to make of its dead-eyed killings which aren't filmed with any rah-rah glee that you'd think would accompany the movie's conservative America is #1 conservatism. Even its one note patriotism is presented rather than, I think, fully endorsed: Chris Kyle, very well played by Bradley Cooper though there isn't much in the way of an arc, memorably refuses to engage with any criticism and is all "God, Family, & Country" in each scene. But something about its very matter-of-fact presentation and inarticulate hero wore me down after awhile despite gripping action sequences. I have no idea how Oscar might respond but my hunch is it's either full hog or both sound nominations only a la Lone Survivor

Meryl's Insane Bankability Continues! Well done, diva.INTO THE WOODS
Reviewed by ranking its musical numbers here. It was the second time I'd seen it having watched it on a big screen originally. Weirdly I think the cinematography, which often looked too muddy and dark on the screen works a little better on a TV. But anyway...  let's hear it for Disney for a great opening weekend. It's important that musicals do well so that we get more of them! Into the Woods won not only the biggest opening weekend ever for a Broadway adaptation but the biggest of Meryl Streep's career, as well. I imagine we'll continue to talk about Into the Woods for a while --  multiple Oscar nominations coming -- so I'll let this be all for this post.

THE JUDGE
I already peed on that here but it keeps haunting me like bad trip flashbacks. Especially the dye job on Vera Farmiga who deserves better Hollywood, come on. Also that scene where RDJ is like superhero-lawyer and stops a bar fight with the power of his wily words!

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
A love letter from Tangiers & Detroit to all of you who recommended this movie throughout the year. Though I was once the type who would rush to anything vampiric, I'll readily admit that Hollywood's overuse of the bloodsuckers finally wore me out; I've been avoiding all such movies for years now. But I should have trusted Jim Jarmusch to come at it from an entirely different angle and I don't know how I missed that it was shot by Yorick Le Saux who won my silver medal for cinematography in 2010 for I Am Love. Detroit has never looked so beautifully haunted, Tilda and Tom couldn't have been a more exotically languid well-cultured pair, its slow moods weren't trying but contemplative, and the ending was pitch-perfect delayed gratification.

Excusez moi


MR TURNER
A surprise. If you only listen to this movie as opposed to watching it (which is what I sometimes do when The Boyfriend is watching TV) it sounds rather like a horror movie. I'm not kidding. There are a lot of scary animalistic noises supposedly emanating from human people (not just Spall's famed grunt speak) and the score by Gary Yershon might be the creepiest outside of Under the Skin this year.  

P.S. Speaking of The Boyfriend...
This time of year chez moi he watches a ton of screeners since he doesn't go to many critics screenings with me. I usually don't watch carefully (having already seen them) and drift in and out as I'm working. He is unpredictable about movies. He loved Pride and Ida (as most sane people do), thought Mr Turner was "good. well made" but clearly had no passion for it. Cried huge apartment-flooding puddles during Still Alice and Wild, and inexplicably H-A-T-E-D both Force Majeure and A Most Violent Year (what the what??? x 2). Finally, he was paying so little attention to Love is Strange that I had to make him shut it off. That wonderful movie from Ira Sachs is too delicate for half-watching. It requires your full attention or that glorious final 15 minutes just won't resonate. 

Have you ever learned something new about a movie you loved by catching only pieces of it or hearing it in the background?

Monday
Dec292014

Interview: Yves Belanger on Shooting Reese's Face as Landscape in "Wild"

I didn't come up with this analogy but it's a good one: Yves Belanger is like Ginger Rogers to Reese Witherspoon's Fred Astaire in Wild. He does it backwards. While in heels. While carrying tons of camera equipment! 

One of the most beautiful film experiences you can have this year is taking a cathartic hike with Wild. The adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's popular memoir has been praised extensively for its heartfelt actressing but less attention has been paid to the indelible contributions of the men recording and dramatizing the journey. In addition to a fantastic sound mix and accomplished editing, the cinematography by Yves Belanger contributes greatly to this film's evocative journey.

Wild is Belanger's second film with Jean Marc-Vallée and I talked to him about his director, his rapport with Reese and capturing the human face as landscape.

NATHANIEL R: I understand you've known Jean-Marc Vallée for a long time so why did it take so long to work togther? It must be going well since you've at work on your third consecutive feature together.

YVES BELANGER: I met Jean-Marc in 1991. He was starting as a young director in commercials. They matched us together but when he did his first feature, I don't know why, he took someone else. With C.R.A.Z.Y. it was like bad timing - we spoke about it but the money comes very fast and when he was ready to do it I couldn’t. Since Dallas Buyer's Club we are back together. 

Both of your films together have major movie stars. Do you feel you've gone 'full Hollywood' ?

Click to read more ...